Toa Baja GreenPower Trips

The City of Madison Engineering Division sent its master electrician, Matt Parks, to Puerto Rico to replicate the City’s Green Power program. Parks made the trip with two other electricians from partnering organizations to teach a crew in Puerto Rico the skills to install solar energy.


The idea for the trip came to be in May 2018. Toa Baja, Puerto Rico Mayor Bernardo Márquez García came to Madison to meet with City officials about a number of concerns the island community was facing, especially after Hurricane Maria. Hurricane Maria was a Category 5 hurricane that devastated Dominica, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico in September 2017. After the meeting, it was decided, the City of Madison’s Green Power program would be replicated in Puerto Rico.   

The Green Power program started as a pilot program in 2016 in the City of Madison. Through the program, trainees with little or no prior electrical skills, learn solar job installation skills as part of a crew working to install PV systems on City of Madison facilities to help the City meet its goal of 1 Megawatt of self-generated renewable energy by 2020.   

2019 Puerto Rico Trip

The City of Madison partnered with Midwest Renewable Energy Association and North Wind Renewable Energy Cooperative to send a crew down to the island to teach people how to install solar electrical systems.

The City sent Master Electrician Matt Parks. MREA sent Master Electrician Nick Matthes. NWREC sent Master Electrician Craig Buttke.

The three were in Puerto Rico from March 7-13, 2019. They helped a crew install a solar energy panel system on the roof of the Candelaria Community Center. The building was very important to the residents of Toa Baja, because it was one of only a few city buildings not flooded from Hurricane Maria. The building was used for shelter, contains emergency supplies, food and water.  

Twelve people participated in the program: six municipal employees and six local tech college students. All but two had prior electrical or construction experience. The group installed an 8.4 kW solar system on the a community center and adjacent Emergency Management Office, to provide enough power to operate their radios, computer, and recharge cell phones.

The project was funded a number of ways: $25,000 donation to the MREA by Cal and Laurie Couillard, the founders of the Couillard Solar Foundation.  North Wind Renewable Energy Cooperative in Steven Point provided equipment design and logistical support. The City of Madison provided time, transportation, and room and board for Parks.

The project was a great success and a true team effort. The Mayor of Toa Baja expressed his gratitude to the whole team and to the City of Madison for support and generosity.                                                       

2020 Puerto Rico Trip

In 2020, Parks returned to install a battery bank and battery based inverter on the Canderlaria Community Center. This system helps make sure the community will have power even when there is no electricity, or the electrical grid is down. The City worked with the Toa Baja Mayor Bernardo Márquez García again to make the trip and training happen. Mayor García chose the Canderlaria Community Center to install the system because it is used as a temporary disaster relief shelter and holds emergency supplies. The building is built high enough to have stayed safe from the flooding that damaged Toa Baja following Hurricane Maria.

The solar power also reduces operating costs of the building. The building has battery and solar power back-up in case of an emergency.

While in Toa Baja, Parks, Nick Matthes (of the MREA), and Craig Buttke, of CBI, Inc., ran the GreenPower workshop to teach partners at the City of Toa Baja and local technical college to install a 7 kW system on the Toa Baja municipal police department. The police department was without power for nearly two months after Hurricane Maria, and the city's backup generator did not work. Parks taught the team to install the battery backup, which has 14 kWh of energy storage and a 7 kW PV system that keeps the battery bank charged when there is no electricity.

Couillard Solar Foundation donated the following materials: multimode inverter, batteries and modules. Ecolibrium Solar donated the racking system.

Matt Parks (City of Madison), Nick Matthes, of the Midwest Renewable Energy Association , and Craig Buttke, of Solar CBI, Inc ., ran the workshop. The City of Madison funded Park’s time on the project as well as travel expenses.

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